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Massachusetts Association of Occupational Health Nurses

My story: Kim Begin RN

Posted 2 months ago by Nancy Clover

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I was a welfare brat! And lived in a 3 generational home in Peabody. My grandparents had emigrated from Greece.  My mother had an 8th grade education.  She was made to quit school, work in the leather factories and give her paycheck to her parents.

My mother married my Dad, who was stationed at Salem Coast Guard Base.  He was raised in Des Moines, Iowa and DID finish High School. My folks divorced when I was 6. My mother would remarry, have another child and subsequently divorce again. We would move back to my grandparents where I became the child- adult and the care giver to my siblings.  My sister and I would see my Dad every Sunday. He would remind us how important it was to finish high school in order to get a good job.  We both graduated on time. 

My husband worked full time as a sheet metal mechanic and part time as a musician. We had 2 children and it would have been a “wash” for me to work and pay daycare. So, I became the daycare and babysat for people in the neighborhood.  Thank God we lived in my father’s house in Georgetown, where we only had to pay $150 a month.  The financial stress, at this time, was palpable!

When I was 36, my mother, age 61, was dying of lung and brain cancer. Everyone who lived in the house smoked cigarettes. The day before she passed.  I watched my unresponsive mother lay in the hospital bed in the home she grew up in.  She became incontinent of bowel. Although, I had no idea of what I was doing, I knew I had to clean her up, I removed stool from her rectum (gloved of course) to make her feel comfortable.  I told the Hospice Nurse and she encouraged me to become a nurse because I wasn’t afraid to do a “disimpaction”. 

There were many positive and negative role models in my life. Some showed me how I aspired to live while others showed me how NOT to live. One of the indicators of me becoming a nurse was how my mother-in-law lived independently after my husband’s father died at age 49.  As a nurse herself, she was able to keep her home and feed her family.  She was able to survive and thrive. My lightbulb moment occurred when I asked myself, what if my husband died or left me. How would my girls and I live?   How would my girls go to college? I would be holding the proverbial bag!   I certainly didn’t want to live or die like my mother. I realized I had to do something to educate myself.

I went to Northern Essex Community College and spoke to a Career Counselor.  I took a few tests to see where my aptitude lied.  The tests revealed, Electronics, (I worked in an electronics factory prior to having children); Early Childhood Development, (I baby sat after having children); Social Worker or Registered Nurse. Bingo! The decision was made.  Be a Nurse!

When I applied to college at age 38, I was told I would qualify for grants and WIC.  I guess I didn’t realize how poor we really were.  I took the grants but not WIC. 

While completing my prerequisites, I continued to babysit and worked around the kid’s schedules. When I went to Nursing School, full time, both my girls were in regular school. I worked as a nursing assistant 16 hours per week.  My Dad would be my biggest supporter.   I graduated in 1998 with High Honors at age 42.

Nursing has been one of the most important decisions I have made for myself and for my family. First of all, it allowed me not to continue the welfare cycle. It was good role modelling for my girls. My husband and I make a livable income, so there is less financial stress.  We eventually bought my Dad’s house, made some modifications and sent both my girls to college.  We were/are able to live a good life!

It’s been 20 years since I graduated from college and I have done many aspects of nursing. All of my jobs have been rewarding, educational and challenging. And I have met mostly good people along the way. I started out as a Rehab Nurse at Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital.  I experienced being a supervisor for a short time and I did some home health care. I became their Infection Control / Employee Health Nurse as well as their Certified Wound Care Nurse. I then went to Brooksby Village, a private pay nursing home and worked as a charge nurse and a Liaison.  I worked at Kindred, an LTAC, as a floor nurse where patients were the sickest of the sick.  I quickly became the infection Control Nurse and Wound Care Coordinator where I had coordinated the healing of many major wounds and I had brought the Infection Control Department up to Joint Commission Standards. I even received a cake for the accomplishment! But when I worked for Anna Jaques as a contracted Occupational Health Nurse in a manufacturing factory, I found my demographic! Over time I was able to bond with the employee and develop a trusting relationship. I could treat, educate,    council and help them navigate the health care system. I was able to connect with this population and I loved the autonomy.

By the way, Ellen Dobson was the Infection Control/Employee Health Nurse at Whittier prior to me. When she resigned she gave me a business card for Occupational Health Connections. After all these years (17?) I still have the card and for some reason when I came across it, I would look at it and put it away.  Was the universe trying to tell me something?   I think so! Because now, I happily work for Occupational Health Connections.    A full circle moment, for sure! ------------------------------------------------------              Kim Begin, RN